Spain’s socialist government has decreed that Francisco Franco no longer deserves to have his remains interred in the Valley of the Fallen memorial.
I’m surprised it has taken them so long. For lefties of all hues reserve their most virulent hatred for the man who saved Spain from Stalin, thus becoming the first leader to stop communist evil by force.
Fair enough, none of his portraits depicts Franco with wings on his back. God knows he was no angel, far from it. In fact, he was quite a nasty bit of work.
Then again, I can’t think offhand of a single successful general in history who would pass muster when held to the moral standards of a Mother Teresa. Some callousness of soul is to be expected in men who don’t think twice before sending hundreds of thousands to their death.
For example, Napoleon and Wellington routinely had POWs slaughtered in cold blood, which doesn’t prevent them from being revered in their countries (the former less universally).
And neither Charles Martel nor Jan Sobieski was your typical Sunday school teacher, and yet they’re fondly remembered for having stopped Europe’s worst pre-communist blight.
The left play the moral game with marked cards. While holding those they hate to absolute moral standards, they’re lenient when it comes to judging their own kind.
I once knew a Labour activist – a generally nice English woman – who held annual parties to celebrate the birthday of Lenin, the syphilitic ghoul who founded the most murderous state in history and pushed the world into a fetid hole that still hasn’t quite been filled.
Like Martel, Sobieski and perhaps even Wellington, Franco was his country’s saviour, more so than the Reconquista hero El Cid. The Spanish should pray to his memory – except that the people who hate him typically don’t pray.
A realistic assessment of what Franco did for Spain, what any statesman does for his country, is impossible without a certain dose of moral relativism. That involves analysing the situation as it was then, weighing the pluses against the minuses.
I’d be inveighing against Franco myself had Spain c. 1936 faced the choice between him and the aforementioned Mother Teresa. But it didn’t.
The choice was between Franco and Stalin (as at first represented by a Popular Front government), and only a moral compass placed next to a powerful magnet would point at the latter as the better option.
The way history is taught these days, not just paid-up lefties but even reasonably non-ideological people see the Popular Front as a valiant attempt to save Europe from fascism, rather than what it was: a Komintern attempt to deliver Europe to Stalin.
The Communist International (Komintern) was a giant spying and sabotage network created and run by the NKVD, as the KGB/FSB was then. Rather than opposing fascism as such, it was after replacing its brown variety with the red.
Of course, the lefties brand as a fascist anyone they dislike. Yet judged by dispassionate criteria, Franco was no fascist. He was a traditional God and country monarchist, and I’m not sure he knew exactly where one ended and the other began.
He saw his beloved Spain being annihilated by the typological equivalents of the cannibals who had already gorged themselves on Russia’s blood, and decided to do something about it.
The government of the ‘Spanish Lenin’ Largo Caballero plunged the country into a blood-soaked chaos, unleashing the darkest creatures lurking in the swamp of hatred.
The creepy-crawlies saw an opening, crept out and began to murder priests, rape nuns, loot monasteries and private estates, threatening to turn Spain into a Russia of 20 years earlier.
Leftie thugs were harassing conservative MPs, politicians and journalists. Even now you’ll see Calvo Sotelo streets in many Castilian cities, named after the leading conservative politician kidnapped and murdered by the socialists.
It was that crime that triggered the military coup led by Franco, who at the time was the governor of the Canaries. He landed on the mainland with a small force and began to seek allies everywhere he could find them.
Thus he became allied with the Falange, whose founder José Antonio Primo de Rivera was murdered by the lefties at the cusp of the Civil War, and whose remains lie next to Franco’s in the Valley of the Fallen.
The Falangists were indeed fascists, whose ideology was patterned on Mussolini’s rather than Hitler’s. And when the Civil War started, Franco gratefully accepted help from both Mussolini and Hitler.
That doesn’t make him a fascist, any more than Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s wartime alliance with Stalin makes them communists. Desperate times, desperate measures and all that.
The same retrospective romantic benevolence that’s still offered the Popular Front extends to the loyalist forces during the Spanish Civil War. This includes Stalin’s shock troops, the International Brigades, put together by NKVD recruiters, commanded by Soviet officers and using hundreds of Soviet tankmen and pilots.
Their rank-and-file were 35,000 ‘useful idiots’ from all over the world, tricked into believing that Stalin’s cause was just. More than 2,000 of them were British, as opposed to just 12 fighting for Franco, mostly in the Carlist ranks.
The International Brigades arrived when Franco’s march on Madrid was diverted by his sentimental desire to relieve the siege of the Toledo Alcázar, a military school where a handful of starving cadets led by Colonel Moscardó heroically held off loyalist troops for three months.
The Republicans took Moscardó’s son hostage and threatened to execute him if the Alcázar didn’t surrender. This they did, after a dignified phone conversation between the two, in which Moscardó told his son to render his soul to God and die like a patriot.
When Franco heard the story, he turned off the Madrid road and went to the Alcázar’s help, a noble gesture that prolonged the war by a couple of years. The International Brigades had time to land and shore up Madrid’s defences.
Step by step the Soviets came out of the shadows and took direct control of all republican forces. Following their fine tradition, they immediately started purging their own side of all those who were anything other than Stalin’s stooges.
Altogther the Red Terror claimed about 200,000 lives, although the socialists characteristically underestimate that number to 50,000, to make it tally with the number of people executed by Franco.
One of the better-known victims of the Red Terror was the politician and academic José Robles, close friend to Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos, both shills for the republican, which is to say Stalin’s, side.
It was that murder that led to Dos Passos’s gradual conversion to conservatism. Hemingway, on the other hand, didn’t have such compunctions and continued to do the Soviets’ bidding for the rest of his life.
Franco was smart enough to accept German and Italian help on credit, making repayment contingent on his victory. That gave the fascist dictators a vested interest in Franco’s success, something that Stalin didn’t have on the other side.
As payment for his services, Caballero’s government transferred 73 per cent of Spain’s entire gold reserves to the Soviet butcher. That operation was supervised by NKVD Colonel Orlov, the same man who tortured and murdered Robles (along with thousands of others).
Stalin thus happily abandoned the republicans when he decided to seek an alliance with Hitler – the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed four months after the end of the Spanish Civil War.
Franco was happy to trade fascist salutes with Hitler, but he balked at trading favours. Not only did he not enter the Second World War on Hitler’s side, but he even refused the Nazis the rights of passage to Gibraltar.
But he fought the Civil War with brutality, often matching the republicans in that respect.
Risking another charge of moral relativism, I’d say that our judgement of internecine brutality has to depend on who fell its victims. A good friend of mine, a prominent Catholic who’s quite a bit less conservative than me, put it in a nutshell.
Had I lived at the time, he said, I’d have regretfully supported Franco because the other side were killing Catholics. He didn’t add that Franco, on the other hand, was killing communists, but I filled in that blank. Most of Franco’s victims weren’t exactly like Federico García Lorca.
Before he died in 1975, Franco had provided for orderly transition to constitutional monarchy. Yet Spain is now governed by heirs to Largo Caballero and Juan Negrín, in collaboration with the EU.
They’ve expunged the years 1936-1939 from Spanish history books and museums. Now they’re throwing Franco’s remains out of the memorial he shares with 35,000 casualties of the Civil War – who died to prevent Spain from becoming something like Romania.